Saturday, August 14, 2010

Article: Medical Treatment for Aspergers

Just drawing your attention to a lengthy article on about medicating children with aspergers.

Medical Treatment for Aspergers

The article is pro-medication and it initially had me quite worried because there's really no proven medication which is effective against aspergers - only against the symptoms.

Eventually after a lot of waffle - important waffle - the article suggests that;

"focusing on target symptoms provides a crucial framework for care. Knowing manifestations of symptoms and characterizing their distribution and behavior in that patient is most important."

In other words medicate according to the symptoms rather than the label. This is mostly common sense.

It's the final paragraph that seems to me to be a little "bittersweet";

Pharmacotherapy is not the ultimate treatment for ASPERGERS but it has a definite place. Medication can be a critical element in a comprehensive treatment plan. There is a wider range of medications with more specific biologic effects than ever before. For individuals with ASPERGERS these newer agents are safer and less disruptive. When paired with therapists who are becoming more skilled at recognizing and managing symptoms, individuals have a greater opportunity to reach their potential and lead pleasurable lives.

Essentially it's saying that medicating isn't the answer but that it definitely has a place. I'd agree with that. Some individuals benefit from medication while others really don't need it. It depends very much on their symptoms (co-conditions).

What does concern me however is the way that it goes on to generalize that newer medications are "safer and less disruptive". That's sort of like saying, "new versions of Windows don't crash as much". They still crash, they still lose data - and, medications are still dangerous.

The article also leaves me with the feeling that the author thinks that unmedicated individuals don't lead fulfilling lives. You can't rule that out! Medication isn't the answer to everything.

On a related note, my wife dropped a bomb during our discussions last night. She said that she's accepted the fact that our son will never go to university but hopes that he might do.....". Whoa! I stopped her there. I haven't accepted that he won't go to university. Heck, I haven't accepted that he won't be "king of the world" someday. He's just turning 10. You can't limit his life.

I've accepted that my son will do his best and be whatever he will be. It's a clean slate and I'll support him in pretty much anything he wants to do (so long as it's legal).

Medicated or not, Aspies are perfectly capable of some pretty amazing achievements. Let's not go around putting limits on them.


Tim said...

Your wife is more than a little jumping to conclusions there, thankfully. A couple of quotes:

"It seems that for success in science and art a dash of autism is essential." (Dr Hans Asperger)

"Tony Attwood has described Asperger’s Syndrome as: “a different way of approaching life, one that is dominated by the pursuit of knowledge and truth”. He also says that great advances in science and art have been attributable to people with Asperger’s Syndrome."

Even though I have Aspergers, quite severely, I myself have three degrees, a bachelors degree in the arts and two science masters.

Rachel Cohen-Rottenberg said...

I went to an Ivy League university for two years before running away to California, graduated with highest honors from UC Berkeley, and got my master's degree after deciding to quit the best Ph.D. program in my field because I wanted a different sort of life. And I did all that in the days before diagnosis, IEPs, intervention, therapies, and accommodations.

I think that those of us who grew up pre-diagnosis were lucky. No one told me my options were limited. In fact, everyone told me I could achieve whatever I set my mind to. That was an overstatement, of course, and set me up for some unrealistic expectations (like being able to schmooze and network and succeed at jobs where it was necessary), but when all is said and done, I think it's better to err on the side of asking too much than too little from life. As painful as it is to scale back one's expectations, I think it's better than having expectations that are too low.

Just another Mom said...

Like you, our plan is for our Aspie child to go onto university. Intellectually there is no question that he could handle it, however emotionally I am not so sure. "Not so sure", meaning that his emotional stability -right now- would not allow him to be successful. (Maybe that is the angle that your wife is viewing your child's ability for success at a university)

All of the therapies that address OCD, SPD, and my sons social challenges are laying the foundation for natural maturation to one day stand tall and strong. I see progress in him regarding his therapies, but I know that natural maturation will take that progress to a whole new level. I have already seen that from age 7-10.

I have read so many posts lately from moms wondering if they are doing too many therapies, and if they are working. Hard to say, but for us there was a long time where it didn't seem like they were working....until natural maturation ran its course. It was then that we could clearly see that in fact he was learning the skills and tools and he was finally able to successfully put them to use.

I firmly believe that with a solid "person specific" foundation there is nothing that my Aspie child can't accomplish.

RR said...

How does your wife feel about your sharing her darkest worries about your son in a public forum? When I'm feeling discouraged or fearful about the future, I need my husband to both challenge my negative thoughts and be a safe place where I can share them. Your son may be too young to make any kind of predictions, but that seems like something best said directly to her, not shared with us, your appreciative readers.

I love your blog, so I intend this with the highest level of respect for the issue you're raising -- never underestimate a child's potential. But as parents, isn't it also true that our children may need our help to find the life path that's going to suit their aspirations, strengths and abilities? I attended a workshop where it was explained that some people with Aspergers can earn PhDs or be successfully employed; but others with the same diagnosis may never drive or live independently.

So, I don't assume my son won't go to college, but as I understand his challenges, I've started to accept that he might not. I'm still very hopeful he will -- but part of helping him grow into the man he will one day be, it seems to me, is balancing unconditional love and optimism with a realistic assessment of what he will need to succeed in life. And a college degree isn't the only measure of success.

It's a hard job, walking this line. I'm thankful my husband holds my hand and walks with me.

Gavin Bollard said...

It's true that sometimes my wife freaks out about things I put online but she also understands that I feel we need to be true.

We don't try to put a mask on. We don't pretend to be "perfect". Raising kids for us is difficult and more often than not, we make wrong choices.

We shouldn't be afraid to admit to those wrong choices and dark thoughts. Some people will attack us for them but others will understand.

If talking about our wrong thoughts can help just one person to understand why they're wrong, then we're doing good.

My wife has changed her mind on the issue and I don't think that there's anything for her to feel embarrassed about. After all, it's something that many parents of children on the spectrum think - even if they don't always admit it - not even to themselves.

RR said...

Sorry, I didn't mean to jump on you or your choice to post her comment online. I was probably projecting how I'd feel if my husband posted some of my more difficult moments where I'm struggling through worry or anxiety about the future. I appreciate your responding and again, I apologize if my comments were inappropriate or unhelpful.

My lingering question -- the unanswerable question -- is, how to figure out how to support my son to do *his* best... in a world that pushes kids to be THE best. Anyway, it's unanswerable. Thanks for your insights as always.

RR said...

Sorry, I didn't mean to jump on you or your choice to post her comment online. I was probably projecting how I'd feel if my husband posted some of my more difficult moments where I'm struggling through worry or anxiety about the future. I appreciate your responding and again, I apologize if my comments were inappropriate or unhelpful.

My lingering question -- the unanswerable question -- is, how to figure out how to support my son to do *his* best... in a world that pushes kids to be THE best. Anyway, it's unanswerable. Thanks for your insights as always.

Gavin Bollard said...


Don't feel sorry. It was a good point and I'm probably guilty of not being empathetic enough in that regard.

How do I get my son to do his best? Scouts of course. It's the cub scout motto "We'll do our best". I go to great pains to explain to all the parents, kids (and other leaders) in my group that it's YOUR best - not THE best.

If I know that a child is capable of better, I'll give them greater challenges or I'll expect a greater quality of work from them.

Everyone gets a badge provided that they do their best.

I can only hope that the concept follows them out of scouts to home and school.

Craig said...

Gavin, thanks very much for writing about such a sensitive subject. As an aspie with aspie children, the thought of medication scares me. My undergraduate degree was in Psychology, and the stories of tardive dyskinesia are haunting, but I also know first-hand how disabling aspergers can be.

I share your same concern about underestimating my aspie child. I grew up undiagnosed, and always felt like I could accomplish anything. We need to encourage our kids so that they can face and overcome their limitations.

Thanks for writing such a great blog!


Anonymous said...

This website is so helpful! I, as an adult aspie, have more of an understanding of my social problems in life, because of the articles, and can identify with so many of the points raised. I look forward to future editions...

Miguel Palacio said...

Too often the jump is to prescription medication when non-prescription supplements will suffice, such as 5-HTP for depression, and Noopept for social anxiety & nuance and awkward gait, amongst other things. But many of the prescription drugs are to negate many of the "negative" attributes that in fact can make someone in the spectrum mightily successful.

For example, I know someone who is hyper-sensitive who got an awesome and exciting job as a hyper-taster for a food company!! Had their senses been muted with a prescription drug they would cease to be so well qualified for their awesome job. One that they are very proud, and justifiably so, of having. Another person that I know with perseverational skills, yes, I said "skills" has a job as an Intelligence Analyst working for a three-letter agency. Thus person can detect even the smallest patterns or changes to patterns in forensic evidence, whether it be for crime analysis or terrorist prevention. Had they been on medication to thwart pattern-latching they would become unqualified for their very well compensated and important role.

The issue at hand us not to squelch, thwart and mute autistic characteristics, but rather how to best re-channel and leverage these so that they become a benefit to the individual and society.

Had it not been for some if my traits, I would not be certified in several foreign languages, and be an expert in the area of C4ISR and Space Communications.

I personally have diminished the amount of anything prescription by shifting to natural
supplements as much as possible so that I may continue to leverage the positive aspects of my traits while managing and overcoming the negative aspects. Not so that I become neurotypical, but rather, so that I may have the cake and eat it too, which, in my opinion, is better than being neurotypical.

Miguel Palacio said...

And yes, I was able to obtain several technician certifications, an Assiciates degree in Arts, specializing in foreign languages; A Bachellors of Science in Applied Siences and Technoloy specializing in Space Communications and a Mini-MBA post-graduate certificate.

But, all at my own pace! This is very important. It took me 10 years to graduate from my 5 year degree program, although I also worked. But a full load was too much for me to process all at once. It was important that I take bite-sized morsels. Yet I also believe that that which I did end up learning, I learnt much better than my peers. -without medication or supplements.

This is because I was not yet diagnosed. But now that I am, with slight medication and supplements, I believe that I would have been able to shorten that time-frame, probably by two years.

So, the proper word is probably "balance".

Sinclair C. Maxwell said...

I would just like to say that, yes, I'm one of those people with Autism that will never drive or be able to live independently. HOWEVER, I went to college, graduated, became a teacher in a field of my special interest (sign language and the linguistics of the language), wrote and published two books and now my partner and I are expecting it first baby. So just because I have Autism and other assorted co conditions doesn't mean that I want able to do anything with my life like some people seem to think. I consider my life to be successful thus far, Autie or not, meltdowns and panic attacks and sensory overload aside and I can't wait to be an Autie mom too and teach my (more than likely) Autistic soon to grow and thrive in his own way as well. :)

Aspergers treatment said...

Every child is different, so there isn't a one-size-fits-all approach. Your doctor might need to try a few therapies to find one that works.

Treatments for Aspergers can include:

1) Social skills training.
2) Speech-language therapy.
3) Cognitive behavioral therapy.
4) Parent education and training.